Focus on Fiction is pleased to feature
Linda is a member of the Crime Writers of Canada, and is the author of numerous keep-you-on-the-edge-of-your-seat mystery novels. These include the best-selling Margaret's Peace and the acclaimed and Christy-nominated Sadie's Song, as well as her new Terri Blake-Addison mystery series. Linda has worked as a newspaper reporter and feature writer and she teaches a popular course in writing fiction at the University of New Brunswick. She and her husband Rik live in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada.
Focus: Linda, you've been writing for a number of years. Can you tell us how many books you have published in the Christian market?
Linda Hall: So far, the number is ten. My first novel, The Josiah Files was published way back in 1993. Since then I've written approximately one a year. After The Josiah Files I wrote three mysteries featuring a corporal in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). Those mysteries are August Gamble, November Veil and April Operation. Then I began my 'Coast of Maine' series with Margaret's Peace, Island of Refuge, Katheryn's Secret and Sadie's Song. And now I've started a new series featuring private investigator Teri Blake-Addison, with Steal Away and Chat Room.
Focus: Chat Room, the latest book in your Terri Blake-Addison mystery series has just recently been released. Can you give our readers a brief synopsis of the story, as well as a summary of the first book in the series, Steal Away?
Linda Hall: In Chat Room, a young woman hires Teri to find her friend who ran away with someone she met in a Christian chat room, and hasn't been heard from since.
In Steal Away, Teri is hired by a minister to find out what happened to his wife who died in a sailboat accident five years before the book begins.
Focus: In Steal Away and Chat Room, as well as in one of your earlier books, Katheryn's Secret, you address the destructive powers of legalism, hypocrisy, and religious extremism in Christianity. How have these issues affected you personally, and what steps can we take to prevent them from seeping into our own faith?
Linda Hall: I really feel God has called me to help hurting Christians. The characters in my novels work through issues of legalism, hypocrisy, abuse and religious extremism. And as readers identify, they are helped as they see someone else work through problems. Chat Room is about loneliness and alienation, especially the kind of loneliness one can feel in the church. Throughout the book, Glynis, who hires Teri to find her friend, is gradually leaving the church for an online church. The trouble is, no one in her 'real' church particularly notices that she's gone. I think this kind of loneliness occurs all too often in our Christian churches. I guess I want to shake people up. We, in our churches are so concerned about reaching outside of our doors to bring people in, but often we're not that good at ministering to the people we already have.
Focus: Author Cecil Murphy once quoted someone as saying, "If you're going to be a successful writer, you must learn to walk down the street naked." Do you agree with this metaphor?
Linda Hall: I'm smiling at the metaphor, but not laughing too much, because it's true, especially for fiction. Non-fiction reaches our intellect, but fiction touches our emotions, those deep and private places inside of us. In writing fiction, I have to go inside of myself and expose all of these places on paper. It's a tough place to be most days. I'd rather stay private. Writing Sadie's Song, the book about the Christian woman who's abused, was difficult. Day after day it was difficult. I said, 'Lord, I can't do this every day, experience her pain with each paragraph that I write.' And it seemed to me that I heard him say, 'This is your gift - to experience pain, so that others may live.'
I take this ministry of fiction seriously. I do think it's a ministry.
Focus: Rumor has it that you've recently signed on with Waterbrook Publishers for an exciting new series. Can you confirm this? And what's on the horizon for readers of your Terri Blake-Addison mysteries?
Linda Hall: Yes. I have recently signed with Waterbrook Press for a series of suspense novels set in the fictitious town of Fog Point. The first of these, A Good Season for Whales, will be out in a couple of years. As for future Teri Blake-Addison books, I can't say with certainty when the next one will be out, but I would invite my readers to my website for more information. As soon as I have a definite answer to that question, I'll post it there.
Focus: You had an amazing experience when it came to getting your first book published. How long was it between the moment you first decided to write and the moment you held your first book in published form?
Linda Hall: Yes, that first book was quite a story, and the whole thing sealed, in my mind, that fiction would be my calling. I was attending a summer Christian writing institute at Prairie Bible College. I had the first three chapters of The Josiah Files written, and had my fifteen minute appointment with an editor there. That editor looked at me and said, "This is good. When can I have the rest of it?"
I asked if there was anything I needed to add, to change; and he looked at me rather nonchalantly and said no, it was just fine the way it was.
The whole thing was overwhelming to me and after that appointment I felt I needed to get away to pray. I was beginning to sense that my life was about to change, and that God had plans for me. I found a place to pray and as I did so, it seemed to me that God was saying that this was what he wanted for me - to write fiction, to devote my life to stories. I also sensed God saying that it wasn't going to be easy, it would be hard work, and at times very frustrating, but this was what he wanted me to do anyway. I've never forgotten that and when things get tough - and they do - I remember that.
Focus: The Christian fiction field has expanded rapidly over the past few years. What would you like to see happen in this field in the years to come?
Linda Hall: I would like to see Christian fiction in many more secular bookstores. I guess it bugs me when I go into Barnes and Nobles, and yes, my books are there - in the Religious Fiction section. I would like to see Christian books shelved right in there with the secular books. I'd like to see them have more exposure to those who don't embrace the faith.
Focus: Of all the books you've written, is there a particular book you'd especially recommend to our readers? If so, why?
Linda Hall: Oh, I'm often asked that! But all my books are my babies and I like them and recommend them for different reasons. I don't have a particular favorite.
Focus: You'll be participating in several writers' conferences this summer, can you tell our readers a bit about your schedule and about the exciting things you'll be doing at these conferences?
Linda Hall: During my Focus on Fiction feature weeks, I'm in Fort Lauderdale, Florida at a mystery conference called Sleuthfest. While there I'll be on a panel and will have a book signing. Then in June I'll be keynote speaker at Write! Canada, the largest Christian writers conference in Canada. I'll be speaking on the subject of Writing with Passion and Integrity. In October I'll be back in Toronto at Bouchercon, the biggest mystery conference in the world. In between conferences I have several journaling workshops at various locations. My entire schedule is on my website under EVENTS.
Focus: What kind of advice do you think your husband would give to other spouses of writers?
Linda Hall: Three words - support, support, support. My husband has been enormously supportive of me. He is my first editor, and brainstormer and my cheerleader.
Focus: In addition to e-mailing you and visiting your website, how can your readers and fans be an encouragement to you as you pursue what is sometimes a challenging and solitary job?
Linda Hall: I send out an e-mail newsletter on a fairly regular basis, which keeps my readers informed. Anyone can subscribe to Every Once in a While by sending me a quick e-mail. You can e-mail me by clicking on the 'Send Author an E-mail' button on this page. I also have prayer partners, a smaller group of people who I e-mail once a month with prayer concerns related to my writing and life. I also pray for them, so it's a two-way street.
Focus: Is there anything else you would like your readers to know?
Linda Hall: Many people ask me about the way to get started in writing, and my best advice is to read, read, read, and write, write, write. Never stop reading and never stop writing.